Five things to watch for in the Dolphins’ game against the Seahawks on Sunday:
1. Russell Wilson escapability: Wilson is among the most impromptu QBs in the NFL and likes to get out of the pocket to turn what could be bad plays into positive plays. The Dolphins have instructed their cornerbacks to continue covering their assigned receivers until the whistle and resist the temptation to chase Wilson, and the defensive line must keep its rush lanes to keep Wilson in the pocket.
2. Running backs roulette: Both teams have new starting running backs as Marshawn Lynch has retired from Seattle and Lamar Miller left the Dolphins via free agency. The Dolphins believe they actually upgraded with Arian Foster now the starter. He is supposedly better suited to Miami’s zone blocking and cutback scheme while Thomas Rawls is supposed to take over for Lynch in Seattle. Rawls’ status for the game is uncertain because of an injury. The question that persists on both sides is can either team’s offensive line be effective at run-blocking, because, frankly, neither one was in the preseason.
3. Will the Dolphins cornerbacks hold up? The Dolphins don’t think they have anything to worry about at cornerback, with veteran Byron Maxwell at one boundary and rookie Xavien Howard at the other. But the truth is Maxwell is coming off a bad season in Philadelphia, which is precisely the reason the team traded him to the Dolphins in the offseason. And Howard is making his first NFL regular-season start. And in this game Seattle receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett come with a combination of guile, smarts and speed the likes of which most teams cannot put on the field.
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4. Will Kenny Stills translate to the regular season? Throughout the offseason, minicamps, and then training camp and the preseason, Dolphins coaches raved about Kenny Stills both privately and publicly. They expect great things from him this season based on what he showed them. The thing is, now is the time to show up in games that count. With DeVante Parker slowed at best (and possibly not playing at all), Stills becomes Miami’s only legitimate deep threat. So is he about to embark on a great season or was that offseason hype hollow?
5. The Miami Dolphins offensive line: This unit has been the epicenter of troubles for the Dolphins offense for years. There’s a reason quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times since 2012. It doesn’t seem that will be the case this season with an apparent upgrade at both guard positions. This unit is expected to be able to pass protect. The question is can it run-block well enough against a stout Seattle defense to make sure that people such as Michael Bennett (10 sacks in 2015) don’t ignore the run and simply decide the only way Miami can win the game is by passing.